Feature interview: finger pointed at Canada, Russia, for degradation of intact boreal forest

“Three countries alone – Canada, Russia and Brazil – alone contain 65% of the world’s entire intact forest landscapes area and 56% of the total intact forest landscapes degradation,” says a forest degradation mapping team made up of  Greenpeace, the World Resources Institute, Transparent World, the University of Maryland and WWF-Russia. (iStock)
The latest satellite mapping analysis of the planet’s untouched forests by a group of organizations such as Greenpeace and the World Resources Institute reveals a troubling picture:  104 million hectares of pristine landscapes have been damaged in some way between 2000 and 2013.

And the images show that Canada has the highest share and fastest rate of intact forest degradation in the world, followed closely by Russia.

Intact forest landscapes are defined by the group as:

“an unbroken expanse of natural ecosystems within the zone of current forest extent, showing no signs of significant human activity, and large enough that all native biodiversity, including viable populations of wide-ranging species, could be maintained.”

These expanses of forests must cover an area of 500 km2 and be at least 10 km at their widest point.

Much of Canada’s intact wilderness is found in the stretch of northern boreal forest that extends as a circumpolar band all the way to Russia.


Peter Lee, the executive director of Global Forest Watch Canada, estimates that about half of the fragmentation occuring in the country’s intact forests is in fact taking place in the North.

He adds that fires, presumably due to human activities, are the principal cause of the degradation.   In Russia’s Western Siberia region, oil and gas extraction is to blame.

Peter Lee discusses intact forest degradation in the North with Caroline Arbour :

Related stories from around the North:

United States:  Wildfires could threaten Arctic caribou herd’s winter habitat: study, Alaska Dispatch

Finland:  Finland forest sell-off has risks, YLE News



Caroline Arbour

Caroline got her start in journalism at RCI, filing items in French and English from its Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver bureaus. Bitten by the radio bug, she also nevertheless subsequently tried her hand at reporting for television, print and the Web, freelancing for Radio-Canada, CBC, Voice of America, L’actualité magazine and The Atlantic’s business site Quartz. Her favourite stories to cover are ones that show resilience in its many forms and also ones that highlight no issue is ever black and white. In Caroline’s wildest and weirdest dreams, she imagines spending her days roaming the Andalusian countryside on a vintage motorcycle, photographing its diverse and stunning beauty.

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